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GeForce GTX 275 Roundup (Gigabyte, EVGA, MSI, Sparkle, BFG)

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SKYMTL

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GeForce GTX 275 Roundup (Gigabyte, EVGA, MSI, Sparkle, BFG)




It seems like it was just yesterday that Nvidia launched their second generation DX10 architecture with the GTX 200-series of GPUs. Back then, hopeful enthusiasts had to pay big bucks if they wanted a piece of the action. Now with increased pressure from a resurgent ATI, prices have gradually crept down to the point where many gamers with a half decent budget can afford a card that will give them performance which was unheard of less than a year ago. Into this melting pot, two cards were released: the GTX 275 from Nvidia and the HD 4890 from ATI. Both offer a ton of horsepower for their price and as such have become the current favorites among gamers and enthusiasts alike.

While the HD 4890 benefited from widespread availability from the day it was launched, the GTX 275 had a bit slower start with stock trickling into retailers. Luckily for consumers, stock eventually evened out and GTX 275 cards can now be found for under $300CAD / $250USD when on sale. Manufacturers have also started releasing overclocked versions of this card which means that there is plenty of variety out there while the cards themselves are reaching different price points.

Variety, falling prices on some cards and general enthusiast interest led us to push manufacturers to send us whatever they could scrounge up that had a GTX 275 sticker on it. They came through and today we are looking at a total of six GTX 275 cards that come from all walks of life; from overclocked to custom cooled, they are all here. We mentioned in our original GTX 275 review that with a bit of overclocking, this is one card that could give the beastly GTX 285 a run for its money. If anything, this roundup should tell us if this statement turns out to be true as we have one of the highest-clocked GTX 275 cards on the market featured here.

Some of the manufacturers here like BFG and EVGA are usually the gold standard when it comes to choosing a high-end card due to their warranty lengths and exposure in the North American market. However, there are plenty of other Nvidia board partners out there that (while not having the same warranty length) still can offer a customer very interesting options. As such, MSI, Gigabyte and Sparkle GTX 275 cards will also be around so we can show what the GTX 275 scene has to offer in a broad a sense as possible.

Like all of our other GPU roundups, since every one of these cards has something different to offer we will not be judging them on a “best to worst” basis. Rather, we will be treating this article almost like six separate reviews where each card will be judged upon its own merits. With that being said, sit back and enjoy the show.

 
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SKYMTL

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GTX 275 Cards Galore! The Specifications

GTX 275 Cards Galore! The Specifications


As we mentioned in the introduction, Nvidia’s board partners may have gotten off to a slow start with their GTX 275 models but they have now gone at the market like gangbusters. As such, they have bridged the gap between the GTX 260 216 and the higher-end GTX 285 with a myriad of cards that touch upon nearly every price point.


Of the cards we have here today, the lone stock core speed card is the one from Gigabyte but looks can be deceiving. We chose to bring in this card because Gigabyte promises that with their Ultra Durable VGA initiative (basically fabricating a custom PCB and beefing up the components), their card will not only overclock better but also consume less power than its competitors. Those are some pretty lofty goals but if anyone can achieve them, its Gigabyte. In addition, this card has its memory overclocked to pretty high levels but the core sticks to reference speeds so it will be interesting to see how overclocking only one parameter will increase performance.

In the slightly overclocked category we have the BFG GTX 275 OC along with the Sparkle GTX 275 PLUS which ironically have the exact same clock speeds. While the minor overclocks may not account for much in the way of actual performance, every little bit counts. BFG was supposed to send us one of their OCX models but unfortunately they couldn’t get one ready in time as they were still determining final clock speeds.


MSI’s GTX 275 Twin Frozr OC is not only overclocked but it is also the only card in this roundup that makes use of a custom heatsink design. This is supposed to allow the card to operate at lower than stock temperatures while maintaining faster than stock speeds. The final core clock speed is definitely interesting in a creepy sort of way but it makes this card the second highest clocked one here.

EVGA’s FTW (For The Win) cards are usually among the best of the best and judging from the speeds their GTX 275 shows, this isn’t an idle boast. The core speed reaches an incredible 713Mhz. That speed is all the more amazing when you realize that the highest we were able to overclock our reference GTX 275 was 731Mhz core. There is some serious binning going on here considering we have it from reliable sources that many GTX 275 cards are having issues with stability at around 700Mhz. If there is one card here that has the potential to best a GTX 285, it is this one.

A latecomer (and you have no idea how late) to the roundup is the EVGA GTX 275 1792MB. This card uses stock speeds on both the memory and the core but is decked out with one seriously large framebuffer. Will nearly 2GB make any difference at higher resolutions with IQ turned up to stratospheric levels? We’ll just have to find out.
 
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SKYMTL

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Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties

Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties


Note, that in order to compile the warranty information below, we sent each manufacturer a questionnaire to fill out regarding their Customer / RMA support in Canada and in USA. Remember, anything written in the warranty sections comes direct from the manufacturers and your experiences may vary.


Gigabyte: Movin’ on Up


We all know Gigabyte for their motherboards and graphics cards but there are few that realize this is a company which is also trying to get their feet wet in many other areas as well. From cases to power supplies to gaming mice and netbooks, it seems like they are into nearly every aspect of the computing world. They also have a worldwide presence which means excellent availability of their products wherever you look. While they haven’t made the jump to the big-box retailers like Best Buy and Future Shop here in Canada, their cards can be found at smaller brick and mortar shops as well as from nearly every online retailer.


Warranty and Support Information

Gigabyte offers a warranty length of 3 years on all of their cards with or without registration on their website. However, unlike other manufacturers their warranty goes into effect from the date the card is manufactured which means if the retailer you buy from has had a card in stock for a year, that card will have 2 years left on its warranty when it is sold. All RMAs from the USA and Canada are shipped to their facility in California with the customer playing shipping to Gigabyte while Gigabyte will pay for return shipping. If you want expedited shipping, an extra charge will be added but the option is there for those of you who want your card back fast. In addition, we Canadians are responsible for any and all customs charges.

Customer Support URL: rma_index
Customer Support Tel. #: 626-854-9336 (Option 3)
Customer Support hours of operation: 8:30am – 5:30pm PST (Mon – Fri)



Sparkle: The new kid on the block


To those of you who are reading this review and live anywhere else other than North America, Sparkle isn’t the new kid on the block at all. Indeed, they have been OEMing cards for several of Nvidia’s board partners for some time now. Even though this Taiwan-based company is one of top selling GPU brands in other parts of the world, their presence here is relatively minor. With only a few select retailers offering their cards in North America, Sparkle is looking to take things to the next level with widespread availability soon.


Warranty and Support Information

As of last week, Sparkle now backs all of their cards with a newly-introduced A+SAP 3-year warranty Sparkle A+SAP Announcement. For RMA purposes, both Canadian and US residents will have to pay shipping to Sparkle’s offices in California but return shipping is paid by Sparkle themselves but turn-around time is guaranteed to be under 72 hours. No other repair or handling fees will be charged. In addition, Canadian residents won’t have to worry about duties for the return shipment as they will be paid in full by Sparkle.

Customer Support URL: Sparkle Computer
Customer Support Tel. #: 626-333-3311
Customer Support hours of operation: 9:30am – 5:00pm PST (Mon – Fri)



EVGA: Always There When You Need ‘em


EVGA. This is the company we have come to know and love here in North America for having some of the most competitively-priced products while offering some of the best customer support service around. They also have their famous Step Up program which allows you to trade in your card (plus cash) for a better product within the 90 days after the original purchase date. The Step Up program, their lifetime warranty, the way they personally manage their online community and the widespread availability of their products have made EVGA a household name among enthusiasts for years now. This Nvidia-exclusive company also has their fair share of overclocked cards in the Superclocked, SSC and FTW product ranges.


Warranty and Support Info

By a long shot, EVGA has one of the best warranties out of all the manufacturers represented here today. If you register within 30 days of your purchase date you will receive their Lifetime Warranty and without registration this diminishes to one year. In addition, EVGA has begun offering what they call the EAR or EVGA Advanced RMA EVGA | Support | Advanced RMA that can be purchased upon registration to accelerate any RMA you send by providing cross-shipping for your new card. Both Canadian and US RMAs are processed through EVGA’s California facility with the customer being responsible for paying shipping to EVGA but return shipping is covered. Since EVGA labels all RMA shipments as such, customs charges for Canadians should be minimal but one way or another, they not paid by EVGA.

Customer Support URL: EVGA | Support | Home
Customer Support Tel. #: 888-880-3842
Customer Support hours of operation: 24/7 365 days a year
 
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SKYMTL

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Meet the Manufacturers and their Warranties cont.

BFG: The Right Stuff


BFG is one of the old hands in the North American market with a huge presence at not only online retailers but at brick and mortar shops as well. They have a long tradition of high performance products that come at a more than reasonable price while offering some of the better customer support available to consumers. Much like EVGA, BFG has instituted a Trade Up program by which a customer has 100 days from the date of purchasing a BFG graphics card to trade it in towards the cost of a new, higher-end model. According to posts we have seen on various forums, their program works quite well even though it is not widely marketed.

With their stock, OC, OC2, OCX and Thermointelligence cards BFG has a foot in literally every price category for most Nvidia cards.


Warranty and Support Info

BFG offers a Lifetime Warranty (10 years in the EU) with every single one of their cards as long as you register your purchase within the 30 days following your purchase. Without registration, you are looking at a one year warranty (2 years in the EU) but you will still have access to their tech and customer support. For us Canadian residents, BFG has something which will be sure to make some quick fans: an RMA facility that is actually located within Canada. Even though Trade Ups are not processed through their Canadian facility, the mere fact that us northerners don’t have to worry about customs charges and duties is reason alone to seriously consider a BFG card. Americans on the other hand return their cards directly to BFG’s facility in Illinois. As in most other cases, you pay for shipping to BFG while they will ship the new / repaired card to you on their dime.

Customer Support URL: BFG Tech - Free Tech Support2
Customer Support Tel. #: 1-866-BFG-FIXX
Customer Support hours of operation: 24/7 365 days a year



MSI: A Speck on the Horizon no More


When we think about high performance graphics cards, MSI isn’t a name that is usually near the top of our lists. We all know their motherboards which until recently have been on a bit of a hiatus here in Canada but they are making a comeback with some strong designs at reasonable prices. When it comes to graphics cards, MSI has begun a marketing push to increase awareness of the fact that they have cards which cater to everyone from the most cost-conscious penny pincers to upscale buyers looking for the best of the best. Even though availability of some of their products remains spotty particularly here in Canada, cards like the GTX 275 are allowing MSI to put their best foot forward. One way or another, MSI is and always has been one of the largest manufacturers of both motherboards, graphics cards and other products so we are always interested to see what they have up their sleeves.


Warranty and Support Info

MSI’s warranty length is the usual 3-years (with registration) as seen with other board partners but there is a bit of fine print here as well. Basically, within that 3 years the parts and labor is completely covered for two years while ONLY the parts are covered in the third year. That means after the first two years of warranty coverage, all repair and handling expenses will be charged to you if you RMA your card to MSI. The cost isn’t extreme; a mere $45CAD per RMA’d item after the first 2 years and $65CAD if you are requesting out of warranty repairs.

To lessen the sting of what amounts to a mere 2-year bumper to bumper warranty, Canadians can take solace in the fact that MSI –like BFG- has an RMA facility that is based in Canada. Residents of the US of A return their cards to California and as with Canada, MSI pays for the shipping to you but won’t front the money for the shipment to their facility.

Customer Support URL:
USA: http://us.msi.com/company_service.asp
Canada: Welcome to MSI(Canada) RMA Department

Customer Support Tel. #:
USA: 626-581-3001
Canada: 1-888-614-6674

Customer Support hours of operation: USA/ Canada: 9am – 6pm PST
 
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SKYMTL

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BFG GTX 275 896MB OC

BFG GTX 275 896MB OC


Manufacturer Product Page: BFG GTX 275 OC
Product Number: BFGEGTX275896OCE
TechWiki Info: BFG GTX 275 896MB OC
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: Click here to compare prices



For the last few years, BFG has clung to the same packaging scheme with a predominantly black design along with a few highlights here and there. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” goes the old saying and in our opinion, the current box with its small dimensions works perfectly well.

The inner cardboard sleeve is there to keep the foam padding around the card and also offers some additional protection. All in all, this is pretty well done so you won’t have to worry about any damages during shipping.


Since the OC edition is currently BFG’s least expensive GTX 275, the list of accessories is understandably barren. Other than the usual quick start guide, driver CD and case stickers, you get a single DVI to VGA adaptor and a coupon to save 10% on select games.


Taking a look at the card itself you will see something that will become a bit repetitive by the end of this review: a reference-based card. At 10.5” long, it certainly isn’t small but it should fit into the vast majority of ATX cases without an issue.


The stickers placed on the heatsink shroud keep with the same design we saw on the packaging with a predominantly dark color palette and a superhero-like character. Meanwhile, the two PCI-E 6-pin power connectors and single S/PDIF header are placed in the usual location as well.


Since the card we received is a very early design, it only has a pair of DVI connectors without the usual HDTV-out. According to BFG, the retail cards will have the HDTV-Out.
 
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SKYMTL

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EVGA GTX 275 896MB FTW Edition

EVGA GTX 275 896MB FTW Edition


Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA GTX 275 FTW
Product Number: 896-P3-1173-AR
TechWiki Info: EVGA GTX 275 896MB FTW
Warranty: Lifetime (with registration)
Price: Click here to compare prices



EVGA’s box art has stayed the same for quite a while now but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the colors contrasts work very well. Meanwhile, the interior of the box holds a large plastic sleeve that is used to suspend the card within a protective cocoon.


Sure it comes with manuals, drivers, 20% off coupon for Mirror’s Edge and whatnot but other than the usual filler the actual accessories that came with the FTW edition were befitting of its price premium. In addition to the two Molex to PCI-E power adaptors and DVI to VGA dongle, there is also a single S/PDIF cable and DVI to HDMI dongle. These last two items allow this GTX 275 to pass both video and audio signals through a HDMI cable.


Other than their HC16 water cooled products, EVGA is known for sticking to the reference designs for the vast majority of their cards. The GTX 275 FTW Edition sticks to this formula but as we saw in the specification section; its clocks are anything but stock. It uses the new EVGA cooler design with touches of red here and there along with the expected black PCB.


Dual 6-pin power connectors? Check. S/PDIF input? Check. DVI connectors? Check. All in all, there really isn’t anything different to see here.
 

SKYMTL

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EVGA GTX 275 1792MB

EVGA GTX 275 1792MB


Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA GTX 275 1792MB
Product Number: 017-P3-1175-AR
Warranty: Lifetime (with registration)
Price: Click here to compare prices


As we stated earlier, EVGA’s packaging shows very little differentiating features form one card to the next other than the indication of the massive 1792MB of memory this particular GTX 275 has. There isn’t any information about clock speeds but we can see that this includes “free PhysX”. Oy.


The accessories bundled with this card are pretty straightforward as well with all the necessities like Molex to 6-pin adaptors and a single DVI to VGA dongle. There is also an add for the new EVGA Killer network card and a 20% off voucher for Mirror’s Edge.


The back and red color scheme of recent EVGA cards returns again on their GTX 275 1792MB edition. Even though seeing red on an Nvidia card first came as a bit of a shock, we have quickly warmed to EVGA’s new design. Other than the colors, this is a reference based card with the usual dual slot heatsink and 10.5” length.


Interestingly, even though EVGA doubled up the memory of a stock card they didn’t need to used the back of the PCB for additional memory ICs.


We hate to mention the obvious but yes, this EVGA card has the usual dual 6-pin power connectors, single S/PDIF header, dual DVI connectors and a single HDTV Out port.
 
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SKYMTL

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Gigabyte GTX 275 896MB

Gigabyte GTX 275 896MB


Manufacturer Product Page: Gigabyte GTX 275 896MB
Product Number: GV-N275UD-896H
Warranty: 3 years
Price: Click here to compare prices



The box for the Gigabyte GTX 275 is typical of other cards we have seen from this manufacturer but this time the layout of the design is in an upright orientation. Within the main sleeve is a secondary box that holds the well-protected card and all of the accessories.

When it comes to accessories, Gigabyte usually serves up a full menu and this time things aren’t any different. You get a software / driver CD, an amazingly complete instruction manual, a DVI to VGA dongle and an S/PDIF cable. Unfortunately, there are two hiccups with this list; the first of which is the lack of a DVI to HDMI dongle. Without this adaptor, the inclusion of an S/PDIF cable is largely pointless as audio pass-through requires a HDMI interface. Also, Gigabyte included one of the oddest power adaptors I have ever seen: a male to male PCI-E cable. If anyone has any idea whatsoever about this thing’s use, please post in the comment thread.


Above we can see the three primary benefits of Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA technology: reduced GPU temperatures, better overclocking and higher efficiency. We will be putting all of these claims to the test a bit later in this roundup so we hope that Gigabyte can pull all three off.


Once again we see what looks to be a reference-based card from Gigabyte with the full length heatsink shroud and dual slot cooling design. However, there is more to this graphics card than what first meets the eye…


Yes that’s right; what looked to be a reference design is actually anything but. Not only does the Gigabyte card have a blue PCB but upon closer inspection, the underside of the card reveals a completely different component layout when placed next to a reference product. This is abundantly evident on the rearmost portion of the PCB where the Gigabyte GTX 275 seems to have a different power distribution section. Unfortunately, due to time restrictions, we were able to take off the heatsink for further investigation. Could this be a by-product of the Ultra Durable VGA initiative? That’s definitely a possibility.


Other than the modified PCB, everything else on this GTX 275 stays the same. There are a pair of PCI-E 6-pin power connectors as well as an accompanying S/PDIF header while the backplate gets a pair of DVI connectors and a single HDTV Out connector.
 
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SKYMTL

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MSI GTX 275 896MB Twin Frozr OC

MSI GTX 275 896MB Twin Frozr OC


Manufacturer Product Page: MSI GTX 275 Twin Frozr
Product Number: MS-V177-037
Warranty: 3 years (parts) 2 years (labor)
Price: Click here to compare prices



If anything, MSI’s box design is sure to catch your eye if you were to see it at a brick and mortar store. Not only is it emblazoned with all sorts of stickers listing its features for all to see but it comes complete with a hellish creature staring you down.

The interior of the package has plenty of protection for the card and the accessory package is a customer’s wet dream. Sure, there are the usual manuals and driver CDs but the number of included connectors and adaptors is just out of this world. MSI has included a component video cable, DVI to VGA adaptor, a standard S-Video cable and a DVI to HDMI adaptor. Unfortunately, while the Gigabyte card we saw on the last page forgets to add the HDMI dongle, this package features an S/PDIF cable that is missing in action. That means you will have the ability to display images through the HDMI cable but not transmit sound. Please note: MSI lists the S/PDIF cable as included so it may just be our package that was missing it.


MSI’s entry into this roundup is completely different and gave us the break we needed from all the bland reference-based cards. The GTX 275 Twin Frozr OC uses the same proprietary, MSI-designed cooler as found on their higher end Black Lightning cards which uses a pair of fans to cool off a massive internal heatsink. Unfortunately, this means all of the hot air the core produces will be dumped back into the innards of your case and this has the potential to raise the temperatures of all your other components.

Other than the custom heatsink and clock speeds, this card is pretty much bone stock other than the distinctive red PCB.


The two fans on the Twin Frozr’s heatsink are linked to one another via a pair of sleeved cables that are eventually combined into a single 3-pin fan header. As such, the speed of both fans is directly linked to the temperatures of the core.


Like the heatsink’s multiple fins, the contact plates for both the memory and VRM modules are made of aluminum. This will help disperse quite a bit of heat from both areas considering the airflow from the two top-mounted fans passes directly over these two areas.


Like the other cards, MSI has gone with the usual layout of dual 6-pin PCI-E power connectors and an S/PDIF header. Meanwhile the backplate holds a beautifully stamped MSI logo as part of the upper grille assembly along with a pair of DVI connectors and an HDTV Out connector which can be used either component video or s-video.
 
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SKYMTL

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Sparkle GTX 275 Plus 896MB

Sparkle GTX 275 Plus 896MB


Manufacturer Product Page: Sparkle GTX 275 PLUS
Product Number: SXX275896D3S-VM
Warranty: 3 years
Price: Approx $285 @ Newegg.ca


Sparkle packaged their GTX 275 Plus into an unassuming white box with a slightly stylized “S”-shaped logo. There isn’t much information here but at least the card itself is well protected against all of life’s little hazards.


Accessories are basic to say the least with a manual, driver CD, Molex to PCI-E adaptors and a single DVI to VGA adaptor. With some of you may be rolling your eyes at this lackluster offering, Sparkle’s card is also one of the least expensive in this roundup so corners had to be cut somewhere.


Yes, it’s another reference-based card with a stock cooler but Sparkle has decided to go with an all-black heatsink design along with a blue PCB. As with all of the cards in this roundup, this one is exactly 10.5” in length.


Nothing exciting or different with the power and I/O connectors either other than the fact that the Sparkle GTX 275 shows itself to be an early reference design without the HDTV Out connector. As you can see, the primary and secondary DVI connectors are color coded as well.
 
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